Around the year 2000, Connecticut policymakers began reexamining the state’s criminal justice strategy. Two convergent factors – the exponential rise of Connecticut’s incarcerated population (and associated costs) and severe budget deficits – were the main factors influencing this reexamination. With the assistance of the Council of State Governments and the Connecticut General Assembly’s Legislative Program Review and Investigations Committee staff, in 2003 the legislature proposed a series of policy changes aimed at creating greater effectiveness and efficiency in the criminal justice system. The resulting policy initiative, entitled “justice reinvestment”, was passed and implemented with the stated overall goals of generating annual savings for the state by limiting the growth of the state prison populations, while maintaining public safety and improving conditions in the handful of communities to which the majority of people released from prison return.
As a result of this policy initiative, Connecticut has been recognized around the country for being at the forefront of state efforts to reduce prison populations and manage prisoner re-entry. Continuing in the theme of “justice reinvestment”, the reexamination of criminal justice policies has more recently expanded to the “front-end” of the system: the juvenile population. Through the extensive gathering and assessment of information on this population, many factors emerged that, if properly addressed, would allow for more effective juvenile justice policy in Connecticut. One of these factors appears to be the support for youth with incarcerated parents.
Recognizing that children with an incarcerated parent tend to be faced with a number of unique challenges, policymakers began focusing their attention on this growing, yet largely overlooked population. As a result, in 2007 the legislature allocated resources to the IMRP to determine an outcome based approach to the state policy on children with incarcerated parents.
Children with Incarcerated Parents (CIP) Initiative
Since fiscal year 2008, the Institute for Municipal & Regional Policy (IMRP) at Central Connecticut State University has been receiving annual funding from the Connecticut General Assembly to administer competitive grants for providing positive interventions for at-risk youth whose parent(s) and/or family members have been incarcerated. The IMRP continually seeks to gain an additional understanding of these children and their service-needs through research, evaluation and outreach activities. As-such, the IMRP, in collaboration with several faculty members from the Connecticut State College & Universities system, as well as other universities and colleges, is evaluating the effectiveness of direct care services in alleviating negative responses to parental incarceration and improving the positive attributes of CIP. The mission for the CIP Initiative is to improve the quality of supports for children with incarcerated parents by using the various data and knowledge it gains to inform public policy and practice.
The IMRP is a non-partisan, University-based organization dedicated to enriching the quality of local, state and national public policy. The IMRP tackles critical and often under addressed urban issues with the intent of ensuring the most positive outcomes for affected individuals and entities. In doing so, the IMRP bridges the divide between academia, policymakers, practitioners and the community. The IMRP’s current projects include: Connecticut Sentencing Commission, Racial Profiling Prohibition Project, Commission on Racial and Ethnic Disparity in the Criminal Justice System, Results First, Youth Violence Prevention in New Haven, and the Children with Incarcerated Parents Initiative.
The CIP Initiative’s Guiding Principles
1. Practices should be designed specifically with CIP needs in mind.
2. Include CIP and their families in the process of program development, implementation, and evaluation.
3. The relationship between the child and the incarcerated parent should be supported.
4. Programs should reach children and families to get “self-referrals.”
5. Stigma and isolation associated with incarceration should be reduced.
6. Emphasis on connections, collaborations and coordination among agencies and community partners.
7. Evaluation and accurate data are critical for identifying evidence-supported practices.
CTCIP is dedicated to providing information that may be helpful to those with a loved one in a Connecticut correctional facility. Hopefully through the sharing of information and personal experiences, this website will offer support to those affected by incarceration. This resource is for parents and caregivers who are facing a prison sentence, as well as for those returning home from a term of incarceration, their children, their children’s remaining caregiver, other loved ones, volunteers and staff who work with or on behalf of children with a parent incarcerated, policymakers, advocates, and researchers.